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Ever noticed how each time an angel speaks to someone in the Bible, the first two words are "Fear not"? And they are always speaking to good, honest, sincere people when they say it! (Luke 1:13, Luke 2:10)

Considering how important faith is in spiritual matters... and considering that fear is the opposite of faith... it seems strange that there is so much fear around amongst the good guys. Why is this? It's because of a particular kind of fear.

What good people fear most is going off the rails. We're constantly on guard against tricks that the devil may use to derail us from our number one job of staying loyal to God.

But some of the "rails" that we cling to didn't just drop out of the sky. We made them ourselves. At some time in the past (often in our childhood or in the early days of our walk with God) we found what we thought was a pretty good way to tell the good guys from the bad guys. We latched onto that thought to create a "rail" or rule to keep us on the "good" side, and we secretly vowed never to break it.

You can probably think of several rules that you have for yourself right now, rules that you regard as sacred. If you were to break one of these rules, or even if you were to listen to someone who was trying to lure you into considering breaking one of these rules, you would feel that you were on dangerous ground spiritually.

You may even sense that this article is leading in that direction, and you may be seriously considering stopping right here and not finishing it.

But before you do, consider this. What if God Himself wanted to get you to do something that went against one of your rules? What if he had a rule (or rail) that was better than yours and that cut right across yours? Would he have a right to ask you to "go off the rails" for him?

Because he's a jealous God, you can be almost certain that he will challenge your rule at some stage. It's not that the rule itself is evil; but just that God wants to be more important to you than your rules. But when he challenges the rule, good people often become fearful that they are being led astray.

Ask yourself whether you are saved by adherence to your rule (or rules) or whether you are saved by the unmerited grace of God. If only God can save us, then only an openness to his Spirit can keep us saved.

Jesus told his followers that they should not be afraid of receiving a 'snake' (i.e. an evil spirit) if they ask their heavenly Father for a "fish" (i.e. the Holy Spirit). (Luke 11:11-13) He said this because he knew that good people would fear that handing control of their minds, emotions, and actions over to him might lead to control by an evil force instead.

"God" for many of us is just another name for our own theology, philosophy, or morality. The real God, way up there miles above us intellectually and spiritually, doesn't get much chance to be heard above all the rules we surround ourselves with. If he doesn't speak through the accepted channels, if he doesn't conform to the correct theology, if he dares to ask us to move too closely to what we have always stayed away from, then we simply turn our receivers off and cling to our religious rules for righteousness instead.

But we would challenge any of you who claim to be Christians, to collect up all of your rules and do a swap. Trade the lot of them for the teachings of the infallible Son of God. That is what Jesus was trying to get Nicodemus to do when he said Nicky needed to be born again. (John 3:3) And it's what we need to do to be truly born again today.

It doesn't mean that your rules are evil or even wrong; but just that they are secondary to the teachings of Jesus. Paul kept trying to get the Jews to swap their religious hang-ups for the teachings of Jesus... their Messiah. Even Jewish Christians were afraid to make a final break away from the safety of keeping Jewish laws (just in case Christianity wasn't good enough in itself). But while they clung to their religious rules, Paul said they were missing out on the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 5:1-4)

Your religious fears crowd Jesus out, silence God's angels, and make you servants of a false god. Don't cheat yourself out of all that God wants to say to you by trying too hard to "stay on the rails".

Fear not! And that's an order from God!

(See also Shibboleths.)

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